Since the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the seven other passengers on the helicopter, articles have popped up shining a light on how sibling grief is often minimized in comparison to the widows and widowers (if the sibling was married) and parents who have lost their child. In a yahoo lifestyle article, originally published on January 29, in response to the tragic accident, it stated: Not as much attention has yet been paid to what the surviving children must bear — not only over the loss of their father, but of their sister, too. It’s that latter type of grief, over a sibling, that’s often referred to as “forgotten” or “invisible,” despite its crushing complexity.

“It’s so minimized,” Heidi Horsley, a psychologist and sibling loss expert who co-founded the grief resource Open to Hope Foundation, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I think there is definitely a hierarchy in the world of grief and loss. When a sibling dies, the focus is on the parent’s loss. The parents are the focal point, because people feel the worst loss that can happen is the loss of a child.”

As both an author and a therapist, I spent four years writing a book on sibling grief when my younger brother died in Hong Kong on Valentine’s Day in 2014. Since the publication of the book on the sixth anniversary of his death, I’ve given numerous radio and TV interviews speaking about sibling grief and what makes it particularly painful. Siblings are left feeling they have to hide or stifle their grief, which I learned through my own experience and through interviewing siblings all over the world in 2015.

I listened to the tragic stories and the moment their world shattered when they learned of their sibling’s death. Among the themes that threaded numerous stories for adult siblings was the idea that they have to remain the strong ones to support their parents, the widow or widower, and nieces and nephews. Adult siblings, out of necessity, are often burdened with the tasks of writing the obituary, planning the memorial or funeral services, and for single siblings who lived alone, the surviving siblings are left to clean out and sell their sibling’s house, take care of the finances, find a home for the pets, and wrap up any other loose ends. For younger children who lose a sister or a brother, sibling death adds another layer of complexity. It’s challenging for the parents to be present for their children because they are drowning in their own Tsunami of deep grief.

Through the grief and loss groups I facilitated and through the interviews for the book, I learned that surviving siblings harbored the erroneous belief that if they spoke about their sibling, it would cause their parents additional pain. Silence causes far more emotional anguish within a family than talking about the deceased sibling. When family members openly talk about the person who is now missing in the family unit, they can begin to fill that void with stories that keep their child and sibling’s memory alive. After a deep loss, no one moves on; they move forward with their memories and all the ways in which they were touched by the person who died.

Sibling Day is on April 10, 2020, as a way to celebrate our sibling bonds. It was created by Claudia Evart after losing both of her siblings at a young age. She chose April 10 as a way to honor her sister’s birthday. In honor of sibling day, I received an email by Modern Loss announcing their first sibling gift swap. On a day for those of us who can be triggered by Sibling Day, Modern Loss has created this gift swap as a special way to give and receive a gift from other grieving siblings. Any of you who have lost a brother or a sister, you can register with Modern Loss and they will partner you up, and you will send each other a gift under $30.00.

I think this is a beautiful way to acknowledge and honor our deceased siblings.

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